Through only 13 games, he carried a .229 average with 2 HRs and 5 RBIs before injuring himself on a swing. Upon his return, the Chicago White Sox need him to help pick up a slumping offense that ranks near the bottom of the league in most major offensive categories.
In Viciedo's absence, DeWayne Wise and Jordan Danks have taken the lion's share of at-bats in his place. Wise has posted a respectable .282 average while Danks has managed just 3 hits in his 16 at-bats, including the game-winning home run in the series finale against the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox's offensive struggles run much deeper than their fill-ins for Viciedo, but Viciedo has the talent to bring the offense back up to speed unlike any other option.
In May 2012, Viciedo posted a .351 batting average to go along with a staggering 8 HRs and 24 RBIs. He was at his peak while the White Sox managed a 10-game win streak, catapulting them back into contention where they remained the rest of the season. It may not be reasonable to expect that level of production from Viciedo right off the bat, but the point remains that there are few players capable of carrying a team like he did for such an extended period of time.
When Viciedo was in his last minor-league season, prospect guru John Sickels cited only defense as a potential obstacle between Viciedo and becoming a perennial All-Star. The White Sox need to see that potential realized sooner rather than later.
At age 24 and in his second full season, Dayan Viciedo is due to break out. His 2012 season, his first playing full time, was respectable as he managed a .255 average along with 25 HRs and 78 RBIs. The White Sox need Viciedo to take yet another step forward, primarily when it comes to consistently driving in runs and making contact when the game situation calls for it. Viciedo also has to become more competitive against right-handed pitching. His defense in left field still needs a lot of work, but it is likely that he moves to first base within the next year or two.
This brings me to a more important point than the White Sox's need to have Viciedo take the place of DeWayne Wise this season. Paul Konerko's contract is set to expire in this offseason and his current slow start suggests that he is in the twilight of his productive career. Adam Dunn has continued to struggle out of the gate, has just one more year after the current one on his contract, and still profiles best as a designated hitter. As we look to the future, Viciedo must be a key contributor for the long term. He needs to be able to begin producing at a level that makes him worthy of being a first baseman, where offensive demands are a fair amount higher than left field.
In the near term, Viciedo brings another potent power bat to the slumping White Sox. A breakout season would certainly inject some needed optimism into the team's slow start. Looking forward, Viciedo is the only true high upside young bat that the Sox have. Young players like Conor Gillaspie, Tyler Flowers and Gordon Beckham can certainly be worth getting excited about, but they have clear talent limitations.
Viciedo has the tools to become an elite run-producer in MLB -- and that is exactly what the White Sox need in 2013 and beyond.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports blogs such as The Flapship.
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